Thursday, January 29, 2015

Last day of 2015 NAIAS

3D printed car at NAIAS wasn't enough of a post-mortem on the Auto Show.  My students who went to the final day also remarked about how crowded it was.  It turns out it wasn't just them, as WXYZ reported Last day of NAIAS 2015 draws big crowds.

More than 100,000 people attended the final day of the auto show.
Also, more than 800,000 people attended the entire event, the most in at least a dozen years.  I'm glad it was a success, even if this year's show highlighted a lot more gas guzzlers and and fewer energy efficient cars.  My students managed to have a fun and educational time anyway.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Gas begins its seasonal rise as predicted

In my comment to Oil markets ambivalent after King Abdullah's death, I observed that "[t]he news may not be moving oil, but it is moving gasoline. In fact, it seems to be the excuse needed for retail gasoline to begin its seasonal rise, which is a month late."  My remarks extended what I wrote in the body of the entry itself.
When I drove through my old neighborhood, those three stations were still selling regular for $1.75, although the corner station had charged into No Man's Land for the second time since my previous report to $1.99.  The previous advance ended with an ignominious retreat to $1.75, but I'm not so sure this one will.  GasBuddy shows an actual price spike in the Detroit market, with the average price rising from $1.83 on Wednesday to $1.90 on Friday--this after hitting a low of $1.81 on the 15th, followed by a week of stability at $1.83.  A price of $1.79 to $1.85 would be much more in line with the local price environment than $1.75, so I expect prices will start rising.  It's about time; the gas price roller coaster usually begins its ascent in late December.
Sure enough, when I drove through my old neighborhood yesterday,* the corner station was holding its position at $1.99.  No ignominious retreat there.  Meanwhile the three stations down the street were all selling regular for $1.89.  That's actually higher than I expected.  In fact, when I checked GasBuddy yesterday, the Detroit average was $1.94, where it stands today.  It's actually a few cents too high; the $1.85 I predicted would have been more in line with the local price environment.  Just the same, I don't expect those three stations to lower their price, although the old corner station will probably match them by the end of the week.

The national average has also stopped falling and appears to be on the way up, hitting $2.03 a couple of days ago and rising to $2.04.  I expect that will be as low as it gets all year, if not until the depths of the next recession.

Oil-Price.Net suggests that crude may finally have stopped its fall, too.  Brent has been rising steadily from a low around $46 a couple of weeks ago and closed yesterday at $49.60.  WTI, which continued to drop after King Abdullah's death finally rose yesterday after hitting a low just about $45, closing at $46.23.  In the short term, it may be a dead cat bounce.  In the longer term, I expect it to follow Brent up.

*Likely for the last time that involved passing by my former residence.  I'll have more on that later.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

3D printed car at NAIAS

I recommended that my students go to NAIAS as a field trip for extra credit and several of them took me up on the suggestion.  The one exhibit that they all remarked about was the 3D printed car that was being manufactured on the floor of the show.   Here is a video report from last September when the auto made its debut in Chicago: Fully Functional 3D Printed Car Made in 44 Hours - The Know.

The Strati, a fully functional 3D printed car, is being printed, built, and driven by this Saturday.
The demonstration was a success, as GeoBeats by way of Gadgetsbuzz reported in World's First 3D Printed Car.

Local Motors recently created a 3D printed car called Strati. The vehicle was made during the six-day long International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago.
That was what happened in Chicago last September.  For what happened last week in Detroit that got my students so excited, I refer my readers to The Verge: Local Motors just 3D-printed a car live at an auto show.
Local Motors is building the Strati right on the floor of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit with printing and routing equipment that it brought in just for the occasion. The machines, encapsulated in glass for safety's sake, don't take much more room than a very small apartment (or a very big closet, depending on how you look at it).
The car could be ready for sale to customers as early as later this year.  We live in Science-Fiction Times, or as my friend Nebris puts it, SciFi is Now.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Another asteroid fly-by today

It's time for another Apophis Day update, this time from TomoNews US (formerly Next Media Animation): Asteroid 2004 BL86 will fly so close to earth Monday that it will be visible from small telescopes.

A half-kilometer-long asteroid will fly past earth on Monday (January 26), approaching as close as 1.2 million km from the planet, about three times the distance from earth to the moon.
The clip actually mentions the approach of Apophis, although not by that name, in 2027 as the next scheduled close fly-by.  However, I'm sure there will be lots of asteroids that will come closer and not be seen until a few days before the encounter between now and then.  May none of them result in an example of in Russia, space explore you.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

'The Walking Dead' spinoff and new trailer

For my Sunday entertainment entry, I'm returning to the topic of "The Walking Dead".

Two announcements came out last week about the upcoming half of the season.  Nerdist breaks one and mentions the second in Leaked WALKING DEAD Season 6 details! (Nerdist News w/ Jessica Chobot).

A surprising guest is coming to Season 6 of THE WALKING DEAD… find out who, plus more Season 5 details in this EXCLUSIVE scoop on Nerdist News with Jessica Chobot.
From what I've read of "Fear the Walking Dead"/"Cobalt," the viewers might just find out what caused the zombie plague, something that I understand won't be revealed in the main show.  That could be either satisfying or disappointing.  Either way, my wife and I will be watching, especially if the spinoff alternates with the main show.

The other announcement, which Nerdist mentioned in their report, was the release of the trailer for the second half of this season.  Here it is from AMC: Trailer: Another Day: The Walking Dead: Season 5.

Don't forget to tune in to the return of The Walking Dead, Sun., Feb. 8th at 9/8c.
My wife and I will be sure to DVR the episode, so we'll be watching.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Oil markets ambivalent after King Abdullah's death

The same day that I wrote about the Doomsday Clock advancing to 11:57, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died.  Kunstler himself expected that would happen soon, as he wrote in A Solemn Pause just last Monday.
The next chapter in the oil story is more likely to be scarcity rather than just a boomerang back to higher prices. The tipping point for that will come with the inevitable destabilizing of Saudi Arabia, which I believe will happen this year when King Abdullah ibn Abdilaziz, 91, son of Ibn Saud, departs his intensive care throne for the glorious Jannah of virgins and feasts.
I don't think Kunstler was actually predicting that His Majesty would die this week, but it certainly made his essay even more timely.  It also set the stage for what he'll write the day after tomorrow.  I'm sure the royal death will figure prominently in the Monday blog post.

As for whether Kunstler's forecast of instability leading not just to higher prices but also to outright scarcity is panning out, the answer is not yet.  Christopher Helman of Forbes went so far as to declare that King Abdullah's Demise Will Be A Non-Event For Oil Prices.
The death of Saudi King Abdullah yesterday will be a non-event for oil prices. There was a quick spike in oil when Abdullah’s death was confirmed, but that quickly faded, and U.S. crude is flat to slightly lower this morning at $46 a barrel. Brent crude is up a pinch to $49.
That's pretty much where the market stood at the close on Friday, with showing WTI down 72 cents for the day at $45.59 and Brent up 27 cents at $48.79.  Brent seems to have found a bottom with the King's death, while WTI is still searching for one.

Follow over the jump for more of Helman's predictions, along with more from Kunstler, me reacting to him, and two videos from CNN.

Reblog of Mike Norman Economics: The triumph of Neo-liberalism and why we love "The Walking Dead"


Mike Norman Economics: The triumph of Neo-liberalism and why we love "The...: One of the most popular shows on television for the past few years has not been a reality show, game show, or sports series. It hasn’t bee...

One of the bloggers at Mike Norman Economics offers his take on "The Walking Dead" as not only an example of why Americans like watching and reading about the zombie apocalypse, but also about the zombie apocalypse as a metaphor for the effects of Neo-Liberalism on the U.S. economy and society.  That's a new one on me.  I'll have to add it to the metaphors and parables I list in the other entries under the zombie label.

I still plan on posting a regular Sunday entertainment entry, but if I change my mind, this will hold its place.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Doomsday Clock advanced to 11:57

I would be derelict in my duty as a doomer blogger if I didn't report that the Doomsday Clock was advanced to 11:57 (three minutes to Midnight) yesterday.  GeoBeats reports in 'Doomsday Clock' inches closer to midnight.

Officials from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have announced that they have downgraded the world’s prospects by two minutes, placing it three minutes to the apocalyptic midnight, due to worsening global climates and the failure to reduce nuclear weapons.
As the report mentioned, this is the closest to midnight the clock has been since 1984.  We lived through that, but it was scary.  From 1984-1988, I gave thanks at the UCLA-USC football game that I got to see another year.  I was that worried about nuclear war ending civilization.  May we be as concerned and as lucky this time.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Energy and climate in the 2015 State of the Union

The 2015 State of the Union Address was two nights ago.  As I did last year in Energy and climate in the State of the Union, I present the portions of President Obama's speech that deal with those two topics, as compiled by Inside Climate News.
...And we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we've been in almost 30 years.

...At this moment, with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, booming energy production, we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.

...We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008.

21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure...So let's set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline; let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year and make this country stronger for decades to come.

...And no challenge, no challenge, poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.

2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record.

Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does: 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.

I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists, that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist either. But you know what? I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA and at NOAA and at our major universities, and the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we don’t act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration and conflict and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.
As for how I feel about what the President said, I'll be a good environmentalist and recycle.
As I've mentioned multiple times, but most appropriately last year at this time in Obama loved science in the State of the Union, "President Obama really likes the idea of sustainable development packaged as making America competitive, and his State of the Union address reinforced that meme."  He did it again this year and I'm glad he did.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Power from poop

Last week, Greer the Archdruid issued a challenge.
I’m delighted to announce a new contest here on The Archdruid Report, the Great Squirrel Case Challenge of 2015. The goal is to come up with the most absurd new energy technology you can think of, and write either the giddily dishonest corporate press release or the absurdly sycophantic media article announcing it to the world. If you or a friend can Photoshop an image or two of your proposed nonsolution to the world’s energy needs, that’s all the better. Post your press release or media article on your blog if you have one; if you don’t, you can get one for free from Blogspot or Wordpress. Post a link to your piece in the comments section of this blog.

Entries must be posted here by February 28, 2012.
It took me until the next day to come up with an idea, which I mentioned to my students in the context of recovering waste energy--power from poop.  What I told them involved two methods to retrieve energy from sewers.  First, recover all the waste heat from hot water flushed down the drain into sewers as well as the heat produced by decomposition.  Second, recover the methane from sewage decomposition and use it to supplement natural gas.  Those ideas grossed out my students, which told me I was on the right path.  My concerns are that these are not original ideas and they might actually be too practical to qualify for the contest.  Even so, they sound ridiculous to most people, and therefore might sneak on by.

I'll write the press release/article later.  Right now, I'm recovering from a cold and am three weeks behind on work for the Coffee Party, so I don't have the energy and would have to spend it on something else anyway.